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WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN WINTER by Candia McWilliam Kirkus Star

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN WINTER

A Memoir in Blindness

By Candia McWilliam

Pub Date: March 20th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-209450-6
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Not just a remarkable memoir of McWilliam’s (Wait Till I Tell You, 1997, etc.) battle with the onset of blindness, but also a blissful celebration of the poetry of her prose.

Strange little asides, digressions and complete interruptions mark this work. Some readers may shake their heads in confusion, but they will surely forgive as the stream of the author’s consciousness carries them along. She explains her functional blindness simply and matter-of-factly because, as a good Scot, speaking of dramatic personal matters is not acceptable. A masterful wordmonger, McWilliam consistently delivers the perfect word or phrase to express each thought. When she lost her sight, she was forced to adapt to audio books, but she never lost her love of the physical book. In addition to the loveliness of the prose, the author’s life story is just good reading: her childhood in Edinburgh, happy days spent on the Scottish Isle of Colonsay, the years she ignored her writing talents and how she dealt with her blindness. She drops names in the British way of assuming readers know exactly whom she is talking about, and she includes so many of England’s greats, who stimulated, encouraged and prodded her along the way. There is a slight hiccup in the middle of the book as McWilliam descends into cathartic confession, but it’s easily skimmed through and worth the wade. Her alcoholism and guilt are nothing new, but readers will cherish the author’s infectious bibliophilic delight. “I want to attest to the goodness of life and I want to share something,” she writes in closing. “If it isn’t a life—well, then, let it be a sentence.”

Anyone who enjoys a play of words and appreciates the turn of a phrase in a beautifully constructed sentence will value this book for years to come.